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Mega Drive keyboards

#1 User is offline Sik 

Posted 09 June 2012 - 09:04 AM

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OK, so, some time ago I was looking into the XBand firmware source code (yes, the same one that was leaked) looking for information about the modem, since I was asked to do that by somebody earlier. I couldn't find anything related to the modem, but instead I found, um, keyboard support. Yep. Guess that with all the potential candidates for a Mega Drive keyboard eventually we had to hit something.

The XBand source code references to it as "Eric Smith keyboard". What is this keyboard? Well, apparently it's this. Eric Smith is not a brand, but rather some guy who was asked by some Catapult employee to make an adapter to connect a PC keyboard to a Mega Drive (which explains why it uses the same commands).

This part is interesting though:

Quote

Apparently Sega sells a keyboard in Japan, but it isn't available in the USA.
Either somebody at Catapult was bullshitted regarding that, or there's indeed some "Mega Keyboard" out there that we don't know about. Considering the existence of the Mega Terminal, which went seemingly ignored by us for decades, I wouldn't be surprised if this is the case for the keyboard as well. Moreover, the keyboard would make perfect sense with the terminal, since that'd turn the Mega Drive into a full thin client (rather than just a display).

So, does anybody have any idea if there's any chance the keyboard was released in Japan after all?

#2 User is offline Scarred Sun 

Posted 09 June 2012 - 09:43 AM

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A couple of things:

- We know, obviously, about Tec Toy's take: Mega Drive Keyboard
- I would be very, very interested in seeing if a SK-1100 could interact with the Mega Terminal
- On the other hand, the prototype Mega Drive keyboard looks nothing like the SK-1100

#3 User is offline Sik 

Posted 09 June 2012 - 09:57 AM

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I wouldn't bother too much about the looks (they could have easily completely changed the keyboard layout), I'd worry more about the interface. If it doesn't use Mega Drive ports then chances are it wasn't meant for it in the first place.

Fun fact: the Ten Key Pad has 24 keys, but it feeds enough data to hold 80, and there are many gaps in the order the keys are fed. The location of the keys don't seem to have any relation with their physical location on the keypad, and moreover, except for the numpad (d'oh) all keys are mapped to some ASCII letter internally. What are the chances that it's reusing the same protocol the Mega Keyboard would use? (I counted the amount of keys in that Beep pic, there are 69 keys)

Also, while looking to see if by pure luck I could stumble upon the keyboard (like happened with the Mega Terminal) I found this. Huh? o_O (source page)

EDIT: meant specifically ASCII letter, of course the numbers, * and # are also stored as ASCII characters (but not letters!).
This post has been edited by Sik: 09 June 2012 - 10:00 AM

#4 User is offline Black Squirrel 

Posted 09 June 2012 - 12:24 PM

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I've read a few claims now that someone built an official Mega Drive keyboard for Japan. But I've never actually seen any proof.

My guess is that they designed an official keyboard, sorted out all the compatibilitiy problems, but never actually put one onto market. Or if they did, it was extremely rare. Catapult must have found the leftovers and built something to make normal PC keyboards compatible with the console, probably for testing. Tec Toy probably did something similar

The SK-1100 uses a completely different port to a standard gamepad - from the looks of things it wouldn't even fit into the Mega Drive.

#5 User is offline Sik 

Posted 09 June 2012 - 12:30 PM

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View PostBlack Squirrel, on 09 June 2012 - 12:24 PM, said:

Catapult must have found the leftovers and built something to make normal PC keyboards compatible with the console, probably for testing.
Nope, not for testing. The keyboard is actually used for text entry in the GUI (pretty convenient for writing e-mails).

In fact, for testing they would build the program for Mac, using code to simulate the VDP (and removing the sound code). The keyboard simulated joypad input in port 1 (arrows for the D-pad, A/B/C/S for the buttons) while port 2 was emulated as being empty.

#6 User is offline Lanzer 

Posted 09 June 2012 - 01:12 PM

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View PostScarred Sun, on 09 June 2012 - 09:43 AM, said:

- On the other hand, the prototype Mega Drive keyboard looks nothing like the SK-1100


Sorry to go off-topic here, but I'm amazed how far SEGA was thinking ahead with just the Mega Drive/Genesis. A graphic Tablet? a floppy disk drive and a keyboard all for a 2D console?! Were in the era of 3D CGI and its only now that these things in their evolved forms have become a standard.

I know some of these prototypes never worked out or never left japan, but still just amazing...

#7 User is offline ICEknight 

Posted 09 June 2012 - 01:57 PM

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Also, Nintendo was already working on the Mii system back in the NES era... I'm sure we'd be surprised at some of the unreleased projects many of the important companies were working on in the old days.

#8 User is offline Overlord 

Posted 09 June 2012 - 03:38 PM

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For what it's worth, there's no obvious sign of a Mega Drive keyboard in the Sega Consumer History book that I can see.

#9 User is offline Scarred Sun 

Posted 09 June 2012 - 06:11 PM

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Is there anything on the Mega Terminal?

#10 User is offline Sik 

Posted 10 June 2012 - 02:25 AM

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http://forums.sonicr...ndpost&p=692151
So um, an ISDN terminal without keyboard makes more sense now...

But yeah, if the Mega Terminal went past the radar for so long, can we really trust anything?
This post has been edited by Sik: 10 June 2012 - 02:26 AM

#11 User is offline doc eggfan 

Posted 10 June 2012 - 09:21 AM

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View PostBlack Squirrel, on 09 June 2012 - 12:24 PM, said:

The SK-1100 uses a completely different port to a standard gamepad - from the looks of things it wouldn't even fit into the Mega Drive.

Confirmed. I have one and it only connects to Mk IIs and IIIs - they have the required expansion port on the front-left of the console. The Mk I, Master System and Power Base converter all lack this port. (as far as I know).

EDIT: The Mark I might have it around the back, I'll check tomorrow. Still pretty certain its not on the Master System or PBC.
This post has been edited by doc eggfan: 10 June 2012 - 09:39 AM

#12 User is offline Meat Miracle 

Posted 10 June 2012 - 10:50 AM

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View PostSik, on 09 June 2012 - 09:57 AM, said:

Also, while looking to see if by pure luck I could stumble upon the keyboard (like happened with the Mega Terminal) I found this. Huh? o_O (source page)

Sega released a Megadrive commemorative item through their Dreamcast Direct service in 2001 that was a complete on-chip Megadrive. It's the 315-6123 used in the VA2 Genesis 3 boards, so I imagine it was a clever way of getting rid of spare stock they had. I don't know if they were functional chips or not, but if they are, they only need ram, an oscillator, a video encoder, the necessary input/output, and a bunch of caps/resistors, to be turned into an actual Megadrive.


View PostLanzer, on 09 June 2012 - 01:12 PM, said:

Sorry to go off-topic here, but I'm amazed how far SEGA was thinking ahead with just the Mega Drive/Genesis. A graphic Tablet? a floppy disk drive and a keyboard all for a 2D console?! Were in the era of 3D CGI and its only now that these things in their evolved forms have become a standard.

I know some of these prototypes never worked out or never left japan, but still just amazing...

Actually they were working backwards. The SG-1000/II/Mark III had similar parts, and it was also released as a full computer (SC-7000). The Megadrive was an evolution of this line, the Mark 5 (Master system being Mark 4). So they probably just couldn't decide whether they should market the MD like a console, or a console-that-can-be-converted-to-a-computer.

#13 User is offline Black Squirrel 

Posted 10 June 2012 - 01:32 PM

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Keyboards were more "accidental" forward thinking. Sega gave their first batch of consoles keyboards because the world hadn't settled on whether dedicated gaming machines would be the way forward, but it was clear they were being phased out by the early 1990s.

... and then phased back in again when the internet showed up. The Mega Drive (and Master System, but not the Mark III) is the only home Sega console not to have an official keyboard.

View PostSik, on 10 June 2012 - 02:25 AM, said:

But yeah, if the Mega Terminal went past the radar for so long, can we really trust anything?

I've learned not to trust the west when it comes to documenting Japan. Not because the facts are wrong, but because nobody actually seems to care, so the facts aren't there.

Take Wikipedia for example. The Japanese NEC and Sharp computers of the 1980s, which were not only the best selling systems in Japan for a while, shaped the Japanese gaming landscape and vastly influenced a good chunk of Famicom and MSX games. Crap like this is documented more thoroughly on the English Wikipedia. This had 10 games and barely sold.


I often find it amazing how under-documented video games actually are on the internet. You'd think it would be the number one subject after the more generalised area of computer science.

#14 User is online Aerosol 

Posted 10 June 2012 - 01:35 PM

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View PostICEknight, on 09 June 2012 - 01:57 PM, said:

Also, Nintendo was already working on the Mii system back in the NES era... I'm sure we'd be surprised at some of the unreleased projects many of the important companies were working on in the old days.


I want to know more about this.

#15 User is offline Overlord 

Posted 10 June 2012 - 02:03 PM

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View PostScarred Sun, on 09 June 2012 - 06:11 PM, said:

Is there anything on the Mega Terminal?

Not specifically that I can see - here's the page the Mega Modem's on just in case there's something buried in the text: http://i86.photobuck...-modem-scan.jpg & http://i86.photobuck...modem-scan2.jpg

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